5. What evidence supports the practices of Universal Design for Learning?

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You are currently viewing version 1.0 of the UDL Guidelines. Go to Version 2.0: Research Evidence

UDL is based upon the most widely replicated finding in educational research: students are highly variable in their response to instruction. In virtually every report of research on instruction or intervention, individual differences are not only evident in the results, they are prominent. Rather than treat these individual differences as irrelevant (or even annoying) sources of error variance, UDL treats them as main effects; they are fundamental to understanding and designing effective instruction. Accordingly, to meet the challenge of high standards, the UDL approach eschews “one size fits all” curriculum in favor of flexible designs with customizable options to meet individual needs. Such options are varied and robust enough to optimize instruction for diverse learners—the learners that are found in every classroom.

The research that supports UDL comes from three categories: first, there is the research basis for the general principles of UDL. The three basic principles are derived from modern neuroscience and the cognitive science of learning, but they also are deeply rooted in the foundational work of Lev Vygotsky and Benjamin Bloom, who espoused nearly identical principles for understanding individual differences and the pedagogies required for addressing them. (For example, Vygotsky emphasized what is also a key point of a UDL curriculum—that supports or “scaffolds” are not permanent but rather are gradually removed as an individual becomes an expert learner—the way training wheels are unnecessary once are person has successfully mastered bike-riding.)

Second, there is the research identifying the specific practices that are critical to meeting the challenge of individual differences—research that has been amassed over decades and by many different researchers in many different universities and laboratories.

Third, there is the research on specific applications of UDL—this new area of research is in its early stages but will take a more prominent place as full-scale curricular applications and system-wide implementations are developed. Because the research on which these the UDL guidelines are based would extend this summary unmanageably, we will be providing the research associated with each guideline in a separate document on this website.


5 Responses to 5. What evidence supports the practices of Universal Design for Learning?

  1. David Scott says:

    (1)What are “supports” or “scaffolds” in this context?

    (2)I’m with Mark and would like to see the research documents. I would also like to see the correlation on classroom performance between 1950 / today and between 1950 / 1990 or whenever the ‘No child left behind’ got off the ground.

    The big Question is,”Are we going up or down (What’s our report card like?)in our quest to educate our children?” This is a more general question than just “Is UDL working?” Are we delivering a better service today than we delivered last year, last century? If we are not, can UDL be the Saviour we need or do we look around for another cure before we cripple this generation?

  2. Cam Caldwell says:

    I was reviewing the criteria for K-12 learning in Ethics and Management. Many of those learning criteria are graduate level.

    Most of my undergrad and many of my graduate students want to simply regurgitate knowledge — and it is the rare student who can do any real analysis, synthesis, or application of principles.

  3. jgronneberg says:

    Hi Mark,
    Yes, we agree and it is in the works. Our plan is to post a new document with a link to the research supporting each of the guidelines. I hate to commit to a date just yet but please stay-tuned as we are in the final phases.

  4. Has the separate document for the research been posted yet?

    I do believe there is merit in citing researchers in this document similar to what you would find in a journal article (e.g., Rose & Meyer, 2003; Meo, 2008) with the reference pages at the end of the document.

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